Friday, July 25, 2014

Is Anyone Talking to Hamas?

It is hard to tell if anything constitutes progress, even when it comes to declaring little more than a temporary ceasefire in Gaza. The latest report on the hostilities posted this morning on Al Jazeera English (a combination of wire sources and Al Jazeera's own reporters) suggests that Secretary of State John Kerry has not communicated directly with Hamas, going instead through his "counterparts" from Qatar and Turkey. That same article also quotes Haaretz, the closest thing to a "fair and balanced" (in the literal, rather than Fox, sense of those words) account of the news to be found in Israel, as saying that Kerry has presented a ceasefire proposal "to both sides," without saying whether this involved direct communication with Hamas or yet another instance of communicating through some third party.

I remember the first time there was a publicly direct meeting between Israeli and Arab leaders. Menachem Begin, regarded at the time as the most hawkish Prime Minster ever elected to that office in Israel, agreed to meet with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. The meeting was hosted by President Jimmy Carter. Carter appreciated that differences can only be settled through face-to-face encounters. Is it worth asking whether Kerry, or any other member of the current Administration, has ever had a face-to-face meeting with a representative of Hamas? How about a telephone call? The BBC seems to have achieved both telephone calls on their radio service and face-to-face appearances on television. Is it the United States or Hamas (or both) that has decided to be averse to such an encounter?

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